Positive point for Preston at St Andrews

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Simon Grayson – www.zimbio.com

Che Adams’ came off the bench to secure a point for Birmingham on Tuesday night, in a 2-2 draw with Preston. The Lilywhites led at the break thanks to Alex Baptiste’s tap-in and Daniel Johnson’s free-kick, the latter coming shortly after Ryan Shotton’s header for Gary Rowett’s side. However, Adams equalized in an improved second half from the hosts to give the Blues a point.

They started on the front foot and came close when Reece Brown wriggled into the box to force a save out of Chris Maxwell. In the early stages, they pushed men into the opposing half and that was key to their bright start.

Preston started to slow the tempo of the game down however and opened the scoring on 18 minutes. Chris Humphrey surged down the right and from the resultant corner, Baptiste profited from a goalline scramble to tap home.

Blues lost their composure after going behind and struggled to string passes together. Lukas Jutkiewicz often won his initial aerial battles against Tom Clarke, but too often he did not have the required support. More was needed from Brown and Greg Stewart among others to press and make runs beyond the front man.

Jacques Maghoma dallied on the ball on the edge of the box before the ball fell to Jonathan Grounds, who fired wide. David Cotterill had at times looked uncomfortable in an unnatural left wing position but his set piece proficiency showed on 30 minutes. The Welshman’s excellent corner was headed in by Shotton on 30 minutes to level the scores.

Preston responded well to the equalizer though and Greg Cunningham’s cross was headed onto the post by Bailey Wright. They got in front when Johnson’s powerful free-kick was hit at the middle of the goal, but Adam Legzdins failed to stop it.

With Preston in the lead, they started the second half in surprisingly attacking fashion. The influential Cunningham forced a save from Legdzins while the energetic Ben Pearson drilled wide. Those two efforts sandwiched Cotterill’s firm strike, which hit the bar on 49 minutes in an eventful start to the half. Cotterill looked more at home when he moved to the right, where he set up two efforts in quick succession: one tight-angled Jonathan Spector drive and a back-post header from Michael Morrison.

After the arrivals of midfielder David Davis and forward Adams, Blues attacked with relentless aggression, intensity and purpose for a 15 minute period. The latter got their equalizer following one of many excellent crosses from Grounds, prompting a rousing chorus of Keep Right On from the Tilton.

Simon Grayson made two defensive subs after the equalizer and switched to a 5-3-2 system, which gave them more security when crosses came into the box. That meant Birmingham had to be more patient with their approach play, which led to a decrease in tempo. Robinson moved up top to partner Hugill for Preston and both saw little of the ball, at least until the 82nd minute when the former dragged the ball wide from outside the box.

Birmingham could not re-build any intensity in their attacks in the dying minutes. However, their ability to come from behind thanks to good substitutions suggests they have more tools to open up the defensive sides than they perhaps had last season. A draw was not want they wanted, but it extends their unbeaten run to six games and sees them stay in the top six for now. Preston are now two points above the drop zone, a draw completing a reasonable run of form, as they look to stabilize in the Championship.